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Bart Riley

Bart Riley, proprietor of Riley Meats in Butte, suffered "willful harassment," a Food Safety & Inspection Service supervisor admitted years after he filed a complaint, but no action was taken by the agency.

The Montana Standard won a 2018 Lee Enterprises President’s Award for Excellence in News, Lee announced Tuesday.

The award, one of five news awards given by the company that owns The Montana Standard and 48 other newspapers in 21 states, was for “Through the Meat Grinder,” an investigative series by David McCumber, photographed by Walter Hinick. The series revealed a pattern of abusive regulation of small Montana meat plants by the Food Safety & Inspection Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “This series disclosed that the service repeatedly cited nonexistent “regulations” to discourage small meat plants from opening or expanding, and made continued operation of such plants prohibitively expensive,” the award announcement said.

After the series was published, all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation requested an investigation of the agency by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General. That investigation is believed to be ongoing.

"I'm very proud of the entire news team at The Montana Standard," said Anita Fasbender, publisher of The Montana Standard and The Helena Independent Record. "This kind of investigative journalism is critical to the communities we serve."

Other news winners included The Arizona Daily Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Santa Maria (California) Times and the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal-Star.

In another category, Innovation in Digital Audience, The Billings Gazette was a winner for “Yellow 88,” its weekly email newsletter highlighting the weekly events of the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park.

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